The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA), the voice of plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers in Ontario, is undergoing a process to develop best practices within its membership. This bold and commendable initiative, tentatively titled “Standards of Excellence for Conduct,” is intended to advance the interests of accident victims, by promoting better service and access to justice. Once OTLA’s review has been completed, the defence bar should also examine ways in which its members can contribute to more collegial and efficient civil litigation.
Gilbertson Davis LLP’s partner Lee Akazaki has been appointed by the Canadian Defence Lawyers (CDL) to represent the defence bar in OTLA’s consultations as it develops this model code. As such, Lee has surveyed the CDL membership in Ontario and has started reviewing responses. At this point, the following themes have appeared as areas where interaction between plaintiff and defence counsel can be improved, in the interests of their respective clients:
- timely responses to correspondence, requests for productions and scheduling
- preparedness to take instructions to settle cases early
- exercise of proportionality and common sense, and avoidance of unrealistic settlement expectations
- competence and preparation for meetings such as examinations, mediations and hearings
- accountability for non-compliance with court rules and professional standards
- regional differences in collegiality among plaintiff and defence lawyers
Undoubtedly, the survey of engaged defence lawyers have targeted the failings of plaintiffs’ lawyers, and a similar list of concerns would be raised in a survey of plaintiffs’ counsel. Instead of engaging in finger-pointing, the purpose of the exercise should be to craft standards that foster greater understanding and cooperation between plaintiff and defence lawyers.
In order to respect the process, Lee’s submissions to OTLA will be informed only by comments from CDL members. If, however, there are topics not covered above from your perspective as a defence client, please bring them to Lee’s attention, confidentially at: firstname.lastname@example.org.